DENVER, Colo. — Well, at least the Broncos scored some points.
The Broncos lost 35-33 to the Washington Commanders on Sunday, after blowing a 21-3 lead. Denver is now one of nine winless NFL teams and they’re heading into a pair of road contests.
Here’s how the Broncos graded out…
Russell Wilson: B — The deep ball is back. Russ hit Marvin Mims on a pair of deep shots. Both of them hit him perfectly in stride. Those two throws helped Wilson to nearly 10 yards per pass attempt, as did the converted Hail Mary at the end of the game.
But Wilson made plenty of mistakes. He missed Adam Trautman at the goal line on the second-to-last drive, just before the Broncos settled for a field goal. Wilson’s second-quarter fumble was a crucial turning point. His interception was another. That interception was the second time in a short span that he wasn’t on the same page as his receiver. On a few occasions, Wilson would have been much better off throwing the ball away. Head coach Sean Payton indicated that Wilson struggled to get the calls out in the huddle and that left the Broncos in tough situations, but that isn’t something I can see on the tape so it isn’t factored into the grade.
The positives outweigh the negatives. Wilson ran the ball six times for 56 yards and produced 107.3 passer rating and three touchdowns in a 300-yard outing, but there’s plenty that can still be cleaned up.
Javonte Williams: C+ — Williams provided an early pop—his first two touches were a 15-yard toss and an eight-yard run up the middle—but he wasn’t able to find running lanes during the rest of the game. In his defense, there weren’t many to find. Williams also had a crucial pickup in pass protection on the deep touchdown to Marvin Mims. He finished with 12 carries for 44 yards.
Samaje Perine: C+ — The Broncos’ No. 2 back had a surprisingly light workload. His only carry went for four yards. His three catches picked up another 20. Perine played half of the Broncos snaps, more than Javonte Williams, but the Broncos used him primarily as a check-down threat..
Jaleel McLaughlin: A+ — The rookie running back was only on the field for three plays and only got the ball on one. He took it for a touchdown. The run wasn’t tough, he went untouched for five yards, but you can’t ask for any more from McLaughlin. He can credit his blockers for this A+.
Michael Burton: A — Burton played a limited role, and once again he excelled in it. He took out two defenders on the touchdown toss to Jaleel McLaughlin. He helped convert a 2nd & 5 in the second quarter. He also converted a 2nd & 1 on a fullback dive.
Adam Trautman: C+ — Trautman didn’t catch a pass despite playing 54 of a possible 66 snaps. He was crucial to the running game, especially when he led the way for Russell Wilson on a designed run on an early 3rd & 2. He also deserves credit for knocking the Hail Mary up in the air before Brandon Johnson caught it.
Courtland Sutton: C+ — This is a tough grade. Five catches for 66 yards is about an average day for a receiver getting No. snaps. No touchdowns knocks him down a bit. Sutton was quiet for most of the game, but had some nice moments, like when he converted a 3rd & 2 with a crosser. He had a big catch on the Broncos’ second-to-last drive and two crucial catches to set up the Hail Mary. He couldn’t make the play on the two-point conversion, but was clearly interfered with. I think all of that balances out to an average day.
Jerry Jeudy: D+ — Jeudy ran 38 routes but only caught three balls for 25 yards. He also drew a hands to the face penalty. He made a great move to get open on the Broncos’ first offensive play of the game and pick up 11 yards, but the Broncos didn’t get enough production from Jeudy.
Brandon Johnson: A+ — The second-year receiver had a nice, easy touchdown on a crosser early in the game, but it’s his Hail Mary touchdown that steals the show. Easy A+.
Marvin Mims Jr.: A+ — Mims on played 16 snaps on offense, but he made the most of them. He caught a pair of bombs, including one for a touchdown, that totaled 113 yards. He also showed off his speed on a pair of jet sweeps, including an eight-yarder. He would have earned the A+ even without the 45-yard punt return.
Garett Bolles: C- — Bolles provided two key lead blocks on early tosses, first on Javonte Williams’ 15-yard run and then on Jaleel McLaughlin’s touchdown to cap off Denver’s first drive. He allowed a few pressures, including a sack to Chase Young that came when Russell Wilson tried to bail out of the pocket and gave Young an angle to make the play. Bolles might deserve more blame for the sack at the end of the Broncos’ late-game field goal drive, when he was pushed backward into the pocket and Wilson was forced to escape. He also lined up at tight end next to Mike McGlinchey for a QB sneak.
Ben Powers: D+ — Lining up against a pair of Pro Bowl defensive tackles isn’t easy, but Powers struggled on Sunday. He gave up seven pressures. He was also called for a holding that set the Broncos back on their first non-scoring drive. He was generally better in the running game, but the struggles in pass protection outweigh the positives.
Lloyd Cushenberry III: B — Only one Broncos lineman didn’t allow a pressure on Sunday: Lloyd Cushenberry. He was also involved in more double-teams than any other lineman, but his day in pass protection was clean, except for being pushed a step or two backwards a couple of times. He wasn’t as sharp in the running game. But he wasn’t a real issue.
Quinn Meinerz: B- — Meinerz got a workout in on Sunday, pulling across the formation time and time again. One of his best blocks came on the second run of the game, when he collapsed the defensive line to his left and opened a massive crease for Javonte Williams. He had his mistakes, though, including when he gave up a tackle for loss on a swim move to start the second half and when he gave up a pressure on the game-ending two-point conversion.
Mike McGlinchey: D- — A sack to start the second half. A pressure that resulted in a third-down throw away in the fourth quarter. A false start to begin the final drive. By PFF’s count, only one lineman in the NFL has allowed more pressures than McGlinchey this season.
Zach Allen: C+ — Allen hit Sam Howell as many times as any Broncos defender, but didn’t wind up with a sack to show for it. A couple of penalties—an offsides call on Allen and a holding penalty that he drew—cancel each other out. More penetration in the running game would have gone a long way in helping Allen’s grade.
DJ Jones: C — The Broncos’ defensive line struggled to create penetration on Sunday and Jones was a big piece of that. He only had one tackle and he missed another. But he was also double-teamed for much of the game, so it’s tough to expect much production out of him.
Jonathan Harris: B- — Harris held his ground for most of the game, and helped out with a few run stops. The first play of the game is an example. He also provided a hit on Sam Howell.
Mike Purcell: B- — Purcell should have had a second on the second drive of the game, but Sam Howell miraculously threw the ball away.
Matt Henningsen: B+ — Henningsen batted two balls on Sunday and both of them set up third downs. His other 16 snaps were pretty quiet. He didn’t provide any pressure or any penetration in the running game. He couldn’t quite make a tough-angle tackle on a screen that would have set up another third down. But the two batted balls significantly improve his grade.
Randy Gregory: A- — Gregory ended the first drive with a sack, batted a ball that should have been intercepted and provided a big tackle for loss on the final drive, which helped give the ball back to the offense. He stopped a couple of other runs, too.
Jonathon Cooper: A+ — Two sacks. A forced fumble. Another hit on the quarterback. A tackle for loss. The third-most tackles on the team. A fourth-quarter sack negated by a penalty. Easy A+.
Nik Bonitto: B — The second-year pass rusher found his footing against the Commanders. He was a force flying around the left edge of the line of scrimmage. He forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket and right into the arms of Mike Purcell, who should have had a sack. A few plays later, Bonitto came around the edge again and found a sack for himself. He had a great tackle for loss as a free rusher off the edge in the third quarter. He hit the quarterback a couple more times. He came close to a second sack, but grabbed the quarterback’s facemask. He turned a 3rd & 15 into a first down, and that play hurts his grade considerably. A couple of missed tackles also hurt.
Josey Jewell: A — Jewell almost got his interception. He made a great play to read the quarterback’s eyes and drop deep enough to leap and tip it away. The PBU ended the Commanders’ second drive. Jewell played a great game. Five of his nine tackles were stops, which means the play was unsuccessful for the offense.
Alex Singleton: C+ — Singleton almost had a great game. He couldn’t quite corral a tipped ball when the Broncos were up 21-3. A pick would’ve given the Broncos a chance to extend the lead, but the Washington tight end was able to rip the ball out. He had a late sack on a great rush up the middle, but a Nik Bonitto facemask meant that play didn’t matter. Two of Singleton’s three tackles were run stops, but he wasn’t the fixer in the running game that he’s been for the Broncos for the past 12 months.
Drew Sanders: B — Sanders only played four snaps of defense, and all of them came in a rush packages. On his first play, he had a lane to the quarterback on a twist but he was bumped into a blocker. His big play was a sack, but it was negated by a penalty. He also was great on special teams for a second consecutive week, including a great block on Marvin Mims’ long return.
Pat Surtain II: A- — Surtain gave up back-to-back short passes while playing off coverage on the second drive, but he didn’t give up another pass the rest of the day. The only other time the Commanders threw his way was on a 2nd & 20 and Surtain was called for pass interference. Knocking his grade down to an A- may be too harsh.
Damarri Mathis: D — The second-year corner had another tough outing. He made a couple of nice plays—like when he blew up an early screen, made a key block on Marvin Mims’ long punt return and was in coverage on Terry McLaurin on a third-down incompletion—but he was also in coverage on a couple of deep balls, including a touchdown. Most of the completions he allowed were short throws, but there just weren’t enough flashes in the passing game.
Essang Bassey: C- — Bassey held down his starting job in the slot for a second consecutive week, but finished the game with a dozen or so snaps at safety after an injury and an ejection left the Broncos without options at the back of the defense. Bassey wasn’t stellar, but he mostly avoided mistakes. He gave up a catch on a 2nd & 10 dig. He also could’ve tackle Antonio Gibson on his 26-yard screen but flew right by the back.
Fabian Moreau: F — Two third-down holding penalties gifted the Commanders a fresh set of downs. One of them came when the Broncos had a sack to get off the field in the fourth quarter.
Justin Simmons: C- — Simmons’ low point came when he gave up a touchdown in man coverage against a tight end. (That was the play that got Kareem Jackson ejected.) He also allowed the first third-down conversion of the game in man coverage. He had his moments, like when he made a touchdown saving tackle, or when he was in perfect position on a 3rd & Goal pass before halftime.
Kareem Jackson: D — This might be the toughest grade of the day. Jackson’s personal foul was egregious, but it only resulted in a one-yard penalty. That’s no big deal at all. But it led to the Commanders trying—and converting—the two-point conversion. And that bonus point loomed large over the game. And so did Jackson’s absence. The Broncos had to replace Jackson for half of the game, and that was his own fault, so his grade suffers. In the half of the game he played, Jackson played well.
Dellarin Turner-Yell: D — Turner-Yell subbed into Kareem Jackson’s spot after he was suspended and then left the game with an injury. He didn’t record a tackle but missed one. He tried to help out Damarri Mathis on a deep ball to Terry McLaurin, but couldn’t get to the ball in time, which resulted in a touchdown.
Wil Lutz: A — Two-for-two on field goals. Three-for-three on extra points. And I thought his onside kick looked nice, too.
Riley Dixon: C — Dixon’s punts went for 44, 44 and 46 yards, and none of them ended up inside the 20. Those are lackluster numbers. Maybe he was worried about outkicking his coverage, but regardless he had an unexciting day.
Justin Strnad: A — The special teams ace made an important block to spring Marvin Mims’ 45-yard return.